Mark Kirk Was Supposed to Appeal to Liberals — What Happened?

Mark Kirk’s efforts to act like a Republican are beginning to erode his value to the Republican Party.

The GOP establishment anointed Kirk as its Senate candidate because he was the guy who could cross party lines and win Democratic votes in this blue state. He’d proven it by surviving for 10 years in a district that voted for Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama. In his congressional campaigns, he won endorsements from some of the most respected political action groups in America: the Human Rights Campaign, the Sierra Club, the League of Environmental Voters. The relationships were symbiotic, allowing both the congressman and the PACs to look bipartisan.

Now, Kirk has lost the backing of all three groups. The Human Rights Campaign abandoned him after his vote against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Now, the environmental groups have bailed as well, citing Kirk’s opposition to cap and trade legislation and his support for oil drilling.

Kirk flip-flopped on cap and trade. As a congressman representing a liberal district, he voted for it. As a Senate candidate trying to win the votes of conservatives who suspected he was a RINO, he opposed it.

Of course, some of this may be the flip-flopping of activists who don’t mind endorsing a mere Republican congressman to give themselves bipartisan cover, but are reluctant to support one for the Senate. The Sierra Club claims it’s dumping Kirk because he wasn’t a leader on the effort to stop BP from dumping more sludge into Lake Michigan.

“Virtually every politician in the state said they were spear-heading the effort to keep BP from dumping in Lake Michigan,” Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club of Illinois, told the Sun-Times. “Kirk held a press conference and took a boat trip, but since that issue has faded from the headlines, we have not seen Kirk speaking out about BP’s choice to move to dirtier gas at the Indiana refinery or for Illinois cars”

But BP tried to pollute the lake in 2007. The next year, the Sierra Club endorsed Kirk in his re-election campaign against Democrat Dan Seals. Now that Kirk is running for the Senate, the group seems less impressed with his anti-BP campaign.

I’ll bet some right-wing Republicans are beating their heads against a wall, thinking “If we weren’t going to get the support of the gays and the enviros, why didn’t we just go ahead and nominate a real conservative?”

And I’ll bet Dan Seals is beating his head against a wall now, too.

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